Falls from grain bunker / stockpiles

This safety alert highlights the hazards associated with working on and around stockpiles of grain, silage or other agricultural matter.



There have been several incidents where workers have been injured while working on tarpaulin covered stockpiles of grain and silage during high winds.

Recently, a grain storage worker was fatally injured in a fall while securing a tarpaulin cover on an eight-metre high bunker.

As well as covering/removing tarpaulins, there are a variety of other tasks done on top of grain and silage bunkers/stacks including tarpaulin covering/removing, sewing, patching and taking tie-down straps from one side to the other.

Windy and wet conditions can create hazards for workers. Powerful winds may lift a tarpaulin or create a ‘sail’ effect.

Additionally, bunkers are often two metres or more in height and workers may be at risk of falling, particularly where the tarpaulin surface becomes slippery or the stored grain has a high angle of repose.

Control measures

Grain and silage bunker operators should consider the following risk control measures when working on and around bunkers:

  • Use a fixed platform (ie gantry) or an elevated work platform to access grain bunkers, silage stockpiles etc, where practicable. Where possible, workers should avoid accessing the tops of bunkers/stockpiles.
  • Use powered plant for tarpaulin placement and removal.
  • Do a risk assessment or job safety analysis which is used when developing procedures and before workers access grain bunkers/ stockpiles.
  • Monitor weather conditions at the workplace. Work procedures should specify the conditions that will prevent working on the bunker (ie maximum wind speed and wind direction).
  • Train, instruct and supervise workers working on and around bunkers.

Australian standards

  • AS 1170.2 – 2002: Structural design actions - Wind actions
  • AS/NZS ISO 31000 - 2009: Risk management - Principles and guidelines